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One of the first women elected to the Minnesota Legislature, Sue Metzger Dickey Hough backed gun control — and more hangings

Hough was described in the local press as “one of the ardent advocates of hanging.”

Sue M. Dickey Hough, one of the first women elected to the Minnesota Legislature. Photo by the Star and Tribune Company, 1926. Minneapolis Newspaper Photograph Collection, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis.
One of the first four women elected to the Minnesota legislature in 1922, Sue Metzger Dickey Hough campaigned for gun control, strict capital punishment, and mandatory automobile insurance, among other issues. After four unsuccessful bids for re-election, Hough turned her attention to club work and other causes, including animal welfare and civic engagement.

Sue Metzger Dickey, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the early 1880s, joined a family with a tradition of public service. Her grandfather and an uncle served in both the Pennsylvania legislature and the US Congress.

The family moved to Minnesota about 1884. Sue attended Minneapolis Central High School, graduating in 1902. Before her marriage, she sold real estate under the name S. M. Dickey Lands. In 1912, she married Frank L. Hough Jr. and the couple moved to Chicago. When her marriage failed, she returned to Minneapolis in 1916 and resumed her real estate business.

Following the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Hough and nine other women filed to run for state office in the 1922 election. Four women won seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives for the 1923 legislative session: Hough, Mabeth Hurd Paige, and Myrtle Agnes Cain, all of Minneapolis, and Hannah Jensen Kempfer of Otter Tail County.

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During her tenure as a lawmaker, Hough was appointed to six legislative committees, including Cities of the First Class, Crime Prevention, and Motor Vehicles and Motor Tax Laws. She co-authored a total of twenty-nine bills, with most reflecting her committee assignments.

Hough and her female colleagues co-sponsored two bills relating to child welfare, in particular the rights of illegitimate children. Unlike her female colleagues, Hough became a vocal advocate for such controversial issues as gun control and capital punishment. She co-authored two gun control bills, proposing a permit requirement for carrying a weapon and penalties for non-compliance. Neither bill passed.

Described in the local press as “one of the ardent advocates of hanging,” Hough co-authored two capital punishment bills and engaged in heated arguments with the bills’ opponents. Senator John C. Sweet, Hough’s fellow Republican from Hennepin County, was especially critical: “I have met only one woman in the whole state who favored the death penalty. That woman is a stateswoman, who seeks the bubble, reputation, on the steps of the gibbet.” Hough responded on the House floor that she would continue to follow her conscience in fulfilling her public duties, in spite of such criticism. Both bills died in committee.

Perhaps less controversial, Hough co-authored two bills requiring owners of motor vehicles to carry liability, accident, and indemnity insurance or provide a fidelity bond to protect those injured through negligence. The bills also required proof of such insurance when registering a vehicle or obtaining a license.

Hough’s legislative career came to an end with the close of the 1923 session. She made four unsuccessful bids for re-election: in 1924, 1926, 1930, and 1934. In 1939, she took a job with the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare, and remained there until 1953.

An active clubwoman, Hough often spoke on legislative matters at club meetings. She had memberships in the Fifth District Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, a citizenship club, the Housewives’ League of Minneapolis, and others. After leaving the legislature, she turned her attention to campaigning for conservative candidates and became an activist on civic and animal rights issues.

She led protests of a state-mandated anti-rabies dog-muzzling law in 1928 and 1938. From 1949 into the early 1950s, Hough participated in a campaign to repeal a state law permitting the use of unclaimed impounded animals in University of Minnesota research experiments. She later served as second vice president of the Minnesota Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (Animal Humane Society).

In the 1960s, while in her eighties, Hough continued to speak out on controversial civic issues. She spoke out against a new city charter that she believed would grant the mayor too much power. She opposed the construction of a “Southwest Diagonal” freeway. She protested against a proposed civil rights ordinance that would permit African Americans to move into previously restricted white neighborhoods.

Hough passed away on December 28, 1980. She is buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.